| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(September 07, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Two seasoned and intrepid journalists have been suspended from the BBC World Service due to the connivance of younger journalists and an exiled journalist who runs a Sri Lankan social media website from UK. Mudslinging is the name of the game for the latter.

Their suspension is Sandeshaya’s loss as BBC hierarchy would soon realise.

Head of Sinhala Service Priyath Liyanage and senior producer Chandana Keerthi Bandara have lost their jobs despite their years of service to the BBC on some flimsy charges which are yet to be proven. Priyath commanded enough respect to be the judge for Immigration Appellate Authority interpreters and Chandana held enough placards for his pet trade union BECTU to fight for BBC employees’ rights.

Chandana and Priyath managed to donate funds toward the late BBC stringer Nimalarajan’s extended family along with former BBC Colombo Correspondent Frances Harrison to seek asylum in Canada.

Neither have a racist bone in their bodies. Having known them personally since 2001 this writer can vouch for their impartial reporting and collaboration with the Tamil Service at BBC. Chandana never fails to welcome Sri Lankan journalists when they visit the BBC. He would offer to pay for your meals at the BBC canteen or persuade the Sri Lankan kitchen staff to give you extra portion of meat or fish and Priyath would receive you at the reception no matter how busy he was.

The first time I met Chandana he asked me in Sinhala whether I would like to partake of his soupa which his wife had prepared. Another hilarious tale he told me was when he had a little too much beer and needed to relieve himself which he did in public. When the British police told him he was committing an offence he retorted that there were no public toilets in the vicinity and when he has got to go he has got to go.
When EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) were having dinner at the plush Frontline Club he brought his his own Vodka and orange juice (forbidden) and served it to us from under the table so you did not have to pay the full whack at the club’s exorbitant charges.

Priyath with his poker face once told me, “Your Mary was impregnated by God and he married her off to the elderly carpenter Joseph” when I told him that Lord Buddha was not so nice deserting his wife. In any event it was these two who persuaded the BBC to dedicate an entire room in the honour of Nimalarajan at a new block in Marble Arch with his plaque.

Both Priyath Liyanage and Chandana Bandara welcomed any journalist who came to their office devoid of rancour or racism. They have a long history of serving Sri Lanka at the BBC World Service. Sadly the neophytes who joined BBC world service chose to discredit them and cause their suspension. Apart from being intrepid journalists they were into human rights and supporting up and coming journalists who were exiled.

Hopefully the duo would return to the BBC and serve journalism to its highest standard as they did in the past. The BBC should make a clear investigations into allegations made by the younger generation of journalists who rode on these two senior and respected journalists and who chose to stab them in their back not caring two hoots for journalistic ethics.

It is with great sadness I write this piece because I know them so well. 

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at pearltheva@hotmail.com)